A worker from the Environment Agency inspects the mouth of the Inny River.

Cornwall: Dairy giant fined record £1.5million for dumping illegal amounts of sewage into river | UK News

One of Britain’s largest dairy companies has admitted it dumped illegal amounts of foul-smelling sewage into a Cornish river, killing thousands of fish with a powerful chemical and wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem.

Dairy Crest, which has been fined over £1.5million, breached permit conditions that allowed it to divert waste water from its Davidstow Creamery in north Cornwall, where popular Cathedral City cheese is made.

A powerful biocide used to clean sewage tanks and pipes was released into the River Inny, which flows into the River Tamar, killing thousands of fish over a 2 km (1.2 mi) stretch in August 2016.

A 5 km (three miles) stretch of the Inny was also covered with black mud two years later.

Overpowering smells of “rotten excrement” left people who lived nearby unable to leave their homes, Truro Crown Court heard.

The violations occurred over a five-year period beginning in 2016, despite the site having its own wastewater treatment plant.

The employees responsible for the sewage treatment plant felt “harassed and intimidated” by their manager, according to the court.

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Davidstow Creamery processes 1.3 million liters of milk from 370 dairy farms every day.

When the site expanded its operations to house a probiotic dairy facility in 2014, the site struggled to deal with volumes of liquid waste — known as wastewater.

It was then run by Dairy Crest – now known as Saputo Dairy UK, which made £21m in profit last year.

The company, which says it is North Cornwall’s largest employer, admitted to 21 crimes linked to pollution and odor incidents at Truro Crown Court in December.

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It also admitted to failing to notify the Environment Agency within 24 hours on seven occasions when something went significantly wrong.

Judge Simon Carr handed the company a £1.52million fine in court on Thursday, saying there was evidence of a poor management culture at the company.

The fine is the highest ever for a conviction by the Environment Agency in the South West.

The troubles continued for many years and “devastated the lives of those who lived nearby,” added Judge Carr.

“Sometimes it was so bad that people who lived in the area couldn’t leave their homes,” he said.

“While there is no evidence that the faeces actually posed a health risk, local residents knew they could smell the foul faeces from a major trading company and were no doubt concerned about the impact on their health and quality of life.”

The company was ordered to pay the full fine within 28 days and had previously agreed to pay £273,000 in court costs.

Picture:
A worker from the Environment Agency inspects the mouth of the Inny River

The Environment Agency’s area director, Helen Dobby, has criticized Dairy Crest for failing to protect residents and the environment.

She added: “We recognize that Dairy Crest Limited has taken steps to address the various issues, but unfortunately on many occasions these actions have not been prompt enough and have proved ineffective in stopping the pollution.”

Dairy Crest issued a “sincere apology” to everyone affected by the violations and said it “remains committed to supporting local communities and being a better neighbor”.

“Considerable work has been done to address the historical issues to which prosecutors were referring,” the company said in a statement.

“The company continues to invest significant resources in the best technologies, processes and people to further improve its environmental performance and minimize its impact on the local community.”

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